Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate uncertain, is the 1982 debut ABC album The Lexicon Of Love.
Beautifully dramatic strings lead us into the first of the ten tracks Show Me, which very soon drops in a great beat and wonderful bass line. It’s no surprise to find that composer and former-Art Of Noise member Anne Dudley worked on the orchestral parts of this album. Martin Fry‘s unmistakeable vocals effortlessly take control. There’s a slight feel of Bond Theme to this song.
Next up is second single Poison Arrow which is probably one of the most widely known songs that the group have ever produced, and one of those iconic 80s songs that makes it onto most compilations. The single reached #6 in the UK chart in early 1982. This song is exceptionally catchy, and has a great pace to it. Martin’s vocal merrily dances along throughout it, and across it’s vocal range. This song is slick, and absolutely flawless, and the video is pretty damn fine too.
Bass leads Many Happy Returns in, along with Martin’s spoken words, before he bursts in with full power with the rest of the band. This song builds up, continually evolving, with lots of difference sections. At about 2m 40s there’s a great piano vs bass section as Martin belts out the vocals. Again, strings underly this song, all helping to add to the ‘drama’ of it all.
Debut single Tears Are Not Enough is up next. Martin gets an amazingly high vocal start for this song and I’m not entirely sure I really find it comfortable. Still, that doesn’t last long, and he’s soon in full swing with the rest of the group. The chorus is simple but wonderfully catchy, with some great ‘tears are not enough‘ lines repeated in unison by the group. Piano, brass, and percussion weave in and out of the song. I think that there might even be a harpsichord at about 2m 15s.
Drum rolls usher in Valentine’s Day, before some wonderfully delicate glockenspiel-type sounds lead us towards the first verse. Again, there’s a load of strings here in the verses. This song is more music than lyrics, but this is hardly a problem. This song was the fifth single from the album, but only saw release in Japan.
Next up is the groups biggest hit, and third single The Look Of Love (Part One) which is an absolutely perfect piece of 80s music. I think that there’s a lot of echoes of this song, musically and lyrically, in the early work of the Pet Shop Boys. The video to this song is brilliant, and a great example of early pop videos. It undoubtedly helped to carry this song up to #4 in the UK singles chart. Since then, it’s gone on to appear in all kinds of advertising campaigns.
This is followed by Date Stamp, which opens with some guitar fading in, before switching to percussion and bass line, reminding me a little of Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood at the start. This song also sees a mystery female vocalist, who although isn’t directly credited, may have been Tessa Webb who, according to the sleeve notes, provided ‘additional vocals‘.
All Of My Heart follows this – another huge hit for the group, and for the 80s. There’s some great backing vocals here, and the song is a fairly gentle song compared to the other more dramatic songs we’ve heard on this album. Laced with strings, there’s also plenty of piano too. Martin’s vocals are softer here, and that works well, all helping to make this song just so good. Anne Dudley’s influence is clearly at play here, with the song fading out with a flurry of strings. This song reached #5 in the UK singles chart.
Penultimate track 4 Ever 2 Gether is the only track here that gives Anne Dudley a writing credit. I guess that the use of numbers of in the song title was pretty new and cool in the early 80s. Despite Anne’s increased input, the strings here are synth ones, helping to give the song an electronic sound, whilst also adding a rockier feel with plenty of snarling guitars. The song drops out at about 2m 55s leaving you with just a minimal synth and some heavily affected robotic vocals repeating ‘speak no evil’. Then the song comes roaring back in stronger than ever – with Martin’s vocals stronger, and the guitars even more growly.
Final track The Look Of Love (Part Four) lasts for a mere 58 seconds, and shows off Anne Dudley’s orchestration skills with rich strings and brass sections. There’s no vocals here, but that’s perfectly fine, as the song is instantly recognisable.
Over all, this album is fantastic. There’s the scattering of huge hits that have since become 80s compilation stalwarts and advertising campaign favourites.
The influence of Anne Dudley is strong, and her string arrangements really compliment the more electronic 80s music and vocal style of the group.
Each song seems to flow effortlessly into the next, which whilst that might sound like I’m suggesting songs are very similar, I think it’s more to the credit of producer Trevor Horn for bringing these ten tracks together as a well rounded piece of work.
I can’t fault this album, it’s been a joy to hear, and a pleasure to add to my collection.
Where are ABC now?
Despite releasing lots more singles, the group wouldn’t see Top 20 UK single success again until 1987, with hit When Smokey Sings, which narrowly missed the top 10, reaching #11. Then, they slipped away again.
Their last charting single was Rolling Stevens in 1997, reaching the lowly ranks of #130 in the UK.
Although the group broke up, Martin Fry and David Palmer returned as ABC, and released their 8th studio album Traffic in 2008, along with two singles. Sadly none of these charted in the UK.
The group, in various incarnations, have continued to perform in recent years, including several 1980s music show tours with the likes of Rick Astley and T’Pau.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE RATING: 5 / 5
- 1982 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £3.15 from an eBay seller.